SRINAGAR: How do you shield yourself against a hail of 612 pellets that travel faster than a bullet haphazardly once the cartridge contaning them leaves the gun? The stone throwers in old city use discarded X-ray film and swimming goggles.
The stone throwers stick at least three X-ray films together with the help of an adhesive. The resulting film is then simply slipped under a tight T-shirt or other clothing.
Although publicised by the government and police as “non-lethal” weapon, pellets have killed about a dozen people during the raging anti-India uprising so far and damaged eyes of 700 others. As many as 50 people have lost eyesight after suffering eye pellet injuries. Thousands of people have also been injured due to pellets.
Is a flimsy looking X-ray film effective against these killer balls of lead?
“X-ray films help only when you have not taken a hit from a close range. Even when somebody is hit from a close range, the films slow the pellets down a bit,” said Ramiz, who said he has been using this method for the past two years now.
Swimming goggles also lowers the impact of a pellet besides shielding the eyes against teargas and pepper spray grenades, he said.
The stone throwers burn gunny sacks or tyres to neutralise teargas and pepper spray.
“With a goggle you can withstand their gases for a longer period,” he added.
Ramiz said the marks left on the body by pellets are a “walking evidence” for the forces to detain the youth. By stopping a pellet, X-ray films therefore also prevent arrests, he said.
Where did they get the idea of using X-ray films?
“Multiple sources,” said Ramiz.
“One of my Facebook friends is a Palestinian. The X-ray idea came from him,” he said.
Given the scarcity of the films, a few stonethrowers have been using the ones left behind by their injured friends.
Many stone fighters have used X-ray sheets of their injured friends as well. Others are experimenting with materials.
“I was hit by pellets in the abdomen in August. I observed pellets could not penetrate my synthetic leather belt. Then I thought of using retrieved tyre and tyre tubing as a shield against pellets. They do blunt their impact,” said Manzoor (name changed on request) from Batamaloo.
A doctor, requesting anonymity, said such crude armor cannot provide high speed projectiles like pellets. Rather, they can add to the danger.
Any protection against shrapnel and high velocity projectiles need to go through vigorous tests before adoption for human bodies, he said.
“Such contraptions can sometimes deflect a pellet towards a sensitive body part. And it is very well known now that forces don’t fire pellets from a distance but from a close range to maximise injuries,” he said.
(With inputs from Abdul Mohamin)